Curved Train Tracks


Along one of our hikes to see Kootenai Falls, we crossed a bridge over a pair of railroad tracks rounding a curve.  It was heavily fenced so no one could throw anything from the bridge.  It also prevented taking any photos.

After departing the bridge, I saw a ‘window’ through the heavy vegetation, and it was literally a stretch on my tippy-toes to try to frame the tracks.  Smoky skies cover the distant Montana mountains.


Train tracks rounding a curve near Libby, MT


There’s something intriguing about train track rails with their lines and curves!

Did you know it takes clever geometry to keep train wheels on the tracks around a curve?  An article in Popular Mechanics, helps explain.

Train wheels aren’t perfect cylinders. They’re beveled to make them wider on the inside. This means that when the train shifts left or right on the track, the diameter of the wheels can change. But because the wheels are connected by an axle, they still spin at the same rate. Effectively, this means that the wheels will travel different distances per revolution.

The wheel bevels are specifically designed so that when the train goes around a corner it stays on the tracks. The wheels that have to travel a greater distance have a greater diameter, and everything stays aligned. The end result is a train that stays on the tracks.

So this proves all that geometry in school was good for something!  😏

We trekked on past the railroad tracks down to Kootenai Falls which were absolutely stunning.  You’ll see, next post!

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